DIY Pumpkin Ice Cream

Because of my younger sister, I have officially become giddy about fall. As a general life-rule, I do not allow myself to “wish” time away, but thanks to all of Kendall’s autumn-related pinning going on, I cannot help myself. My mind keeps wandering to the bounty of awesomeness that is fall. All of the pumpkin flavored food and drinks. All of the cozy decorations. And the boots, my goodness, the boots!

But back to reality for a second: it is currently 83 degrees outside and the only people wearing boots are either crazy or in the construction business. And my local Starbucks is unwilling to make me a pumpkin latte, even when I say “pretty please”. Something about “seasonal” limitations. Darn it, Kendy! I am shaking an angry fist in the general direction of Stow. Or, at least I think it’s towards Stow. If not, I just sent Tallmadge some really bad vibes. Sorry, Blue Devils…

Anyway, even though I am currently stuck in all this sunshine and fantastic summer weather, I can still enjoy a little piece of fall, right? My parents came back over tonight so my mom could help me single-handedly finish wallpapering the library.

[Side note: my first wallpapering experience taught me two things.

1. I am terrible at wallpapering. Simply horrible at it. And if my mom ever tells you differently, she is lying.

2. Wallpapering takes FOREVER. Our library is by no means a large room, so I thought we could knock it out in one Sunday afternoon. I was wrong.]

To show my appreciation for her help, I made a special lil’ somethin’ for dessert: pumpkin ice cream. It was so easy, and it takes so good. Seriously. You’ll want to send me a present after trying it.

Let me precede the recipe by clarifying one thing: I am not a “from scratch” person. To me, a “home-made” apple pie is one that I purchase from the freezer section at Giant Eagle and heat in my oven. Since I made it at home, it counts as home-made. End of discussion. So, this DIY pumpkin ice cream in no way requires you to actually make ice cream from scratch. I promised easy, and I will deliver.

Pumpkin Ice Cream
Serves 8

– 1.5 quart container of fat-free vanilla ice cream, slightly thawed
– 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
– 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice
– 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1. In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients together. Stir long enough that pumpkin and spices are distributed evenly throughout the ice cream, but not until the ice cream is liquid.

2. Transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze for at least 2 hours. Serve.

The ice cream is good enough to eat alone, but because I was feeling fancy-pants last night, I made mini-trifles with a few extra ingredients:

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In each trifle, put about 1/8 of the pumpkin ice cream. Crumble one graham cracker and put on top of ice cream. Add as much whipped cream as your heart desires and finish it off with a dash of cinnamon.

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Incredible. I fancy myself as an expert in pumpkin desserts, and I must admit, this one is pretty amazing. If you do choose to send me a present, I enjoy Merlot, dark chocolate and one-hundred dollar bills. 🙂

Enjoy!

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High Five Friday 7-27

Bad things happen in this world. That’s one thing we unfortunately cannot get away from. I do these “High Five Friday” posts to remind myself of all the good things that have happened to me during the week, no matter how small they are. They keep me focused on all I have to be thankful for in my life, instead of all the chaos and tragedy going on. Reminding myself of the joy and happiness in my life really does have a positive impact on my outlook on life. So I challenge you to try it. Take five minutes and write down five positive things that have happened to you this week. They don’t have to be huge, life-changing events; as you can see from my list below, nothing out of the ordinary really happened to me this week. But once I focus on that small, ordinary event, it becomes extraordinary. I know it’s cliché, but the power of positive thinking is truly amazing!

1. My awesome new “I like big mutts and I cannot lie” tote bag made its debut at the gym. Great birthday present, Mom!

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2. The Zac Brown Band, one of my all time FAVORITES, is coming to the Akron area in September. And guess who has tickets? That’s right: this girl! We’ll be joining a few of our friends as well, and I’m sure there will be plenty of others going. I seriously do not think it is possible for this band to have a bad song. My iTunes is full of their stuff, and I have all of their CDs (yes, I still buy CDs). This concert will be the perfect farewell to summer.

3. I purchased all the supplies to wallpaper the library, and my mom is coming over this Sunday to help me put it up. And by “help” me, I mean she’s going to pretty much have to tell what to do every step of the way. Thank goodness she is a patient woman. This could get ugly…

4. After spending only one night at home over the past week, Ryan is finally back at Casa de Bowers! I’m so happy to have him home, but the highlight of my week was when I was saying goodbye to him this morning. Still half asleep, he smiled and said, “Just hearing you get ready this morning made my happier than I’ve been all week. I’m so glad to be home.” My heart melted.

5. I had dinner with some girlfriends from high school on Monday night (filled with lots of talk of our up-coming 10 year reunion), drinks with a co-worker-turned-friend-and-confidant last night and tonight, I am going to dinner with a group of college girlfriends, most of whom I haven’t seen in years. I am so blessed to have these women in my life. No matter where we live, no matter how much our lives change, no matter how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other: it feels like nothing has changed in our relationships.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Cool App – July 2012

Today is July 25th, and that can only mean one thing: Christmas is just 5 months away!  I know, I know: it’s been around 90 degrees lately, so it might seem crazy to be thinking about the holidays right now, but they will be here before we know it. I’ve always found that one of the most stressful parts of the holidays is coming up with ideas and shopping for gifts, which is why I am stoked about an app I found that helps streamline the gift-giving / shopping process. It’s called “The Christmas List” and costs $0.99 in the iTunes App Store (unfortunately, I couldn’t find if this app was available for other smart phones). I wanted to share some of the features with you. I was not paid to do this – this is purely my own opinion. Hope you enjoy!

Once you download the Christmas List app, you can set up different groups of people (family, friends, co-workers, etc.) for whom you buy gifts.

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You can then add members to each group, complete with a profile picture:

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If you’re like me, you randomly think of fantastic, wonderful, perfect, amazing gift ideas for people…and then you forget them before you have the chance to purchase said gift. Annoying. With this app, you can add gift ideas and budgets to each member, so as long as you have your phone with you when brilliance strikes, no more genius ideas lost.

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You can even add a picture of the gift if you see it online or in a store before you’re ready to purchase.

Once you start shopping, this app allows you to track purchases. This is HUGE for me. I like to start shopping in the early fall: this is great for my budget, but bad because I tend to forget what I bought months later. Oops.

Another cool feature – you can share a gift list with others via Facebook or email. So, if my mother-in-law needs gift ideas for Ryan, I can email her the list of gift ideas I set up for him.

I’ve gotten a jump-start on a little Christmas shopping, so this app is getting mileage from me already. And just in case my phone ends up in the wrong hands (Ryan and Kendall – I’m looking at you), the app has an optional password lock.

If a free app is more your thing, try the “Christmas Gifts List Free” app. This app doesn’t allow you to create groups and is supported by ads, but if neither of those things bother you, it’s a good app to try.

P.S. My Mario Badescu samples came in the mail. I’ve been trying them out all week and must report that my fear has been confirmed: I love them. These products are amazing. The seaweed night cream is my favorite so far. I swear that stuff transforms my skin into silk overnight. Truly amazing. I see a Christmas gift for myself in my future… 🙂

Our Library

I remember when I was about 10 years old, my family went to a graduation party at the house of a family friend. Construction of their new home had wrapped up just months before, so we were given a tour of the new place. The entire house was beautiful, but I wasn’t awestruck until we came to the library. That’s right. They had a library. In their house.

From that moment, I dreamed of having a library in my house when I got “old”, or, in other words, before I turned thirty. Even though my definition of old was extremely skewed in my youth, my dream to have a room completely dedicated to books and low levels of noise was right on target. So, when my husband and I were shopping for our first home, a library was at the top of my “wish” list. It wasn’t one of our requirements for a home…but it was absolutely a mega-plus.

After a few months of house-hunting, Ryan and I stumbled upon the house that would eventually become our home by accident. While coming out of an open house with our realtor, I noticed the beautiful colonial across the street and asked her “Why aren’t we looking at that house?” When she told me that I marked it as a “no” on the list of houses she gave me, I dismissed it as a mistake. However, once we were inside the house,  I remembered the reasons why I had originally said no to this house. One of those reasons: there was wallpaper…EVERYWHERE.

Wallpaper in the living room. Wallpaper in the kitchen. Wallpaper in the bathrooms. Wallpaper…in the library!

Yes! This house had a library. With beautiful floor-to-ceiling built-in shelves in a deep, gorgeous wood. Even though its walls were covered in Scottish-kilt-plaid wallpaper, the library had me hooked. I was in love. Luckily, we were in love with the rest of the house too. My dream of having a library had happened before I was officially “old”.

As soon as the keys were in our hands, we got to work ripping up carpet, painting and taking down all that wallpaper. Things were going great, until we got to the library. When we took the wallpaper down, instead of drywall, we saw wood panelling. I think I would have been ok with wood panelling (the folks on HGTV make the stuff look AMAZING!), however, this panelling was ruined by wallpaper glue. And it looked so sad and retro (in a bad way) next to the dark wood of the rest of the room.

So, down with the panelling! Wouldn’t it be our luck that beneath the icky panelling was even ickier panelling? Of course it would be. Unless we wanted to hire someone to install drywall, painting was clearly not an option. As much as I hated to admit it, I told my husband the best way to go in here was…wallpaper. Since that had all but  become a cuss word to him, you can imagine he was less than enthusiastic. But I promised him I would stay far, far away from anything remotely similar to the floral, tye-dyed or plaid wallpaper we had spent hours of our lives ripping down.

My original intention was to buy white wallpaper that can be painted, but once I started browsing all of the cool options available in wallpaper these days, I decided to go a different direction. I went from being a believer in paint-only decorating to someone who actually just used “cool” and “wallpaper” in the same sentence. I’m growing up, and so are my tastes: check out this Spanish Tile wallpaper from allen + roth.

Source

Gorgeous, right? I was so excited when I picked up the wallpaper and supplies from Lowe’s yesterday. So excited that I literally did a happy dance on the way out. Luckily, I didn’t run into anyone I knew while I was doing that. Oh, wait…yes, I did.

No matter. I’m so giddy about finishing this last part of our library make-over that I’m not embarrassed at all. After the wallpaper is up, the last step will be to throw on comfy clothes, pour a big cup of coffee and grab a book from one of the shelves. Man, getting “old” feels good.

Baby Shower Favors

Shower favors are tricky little things: they should be something guests will enjoy and / or won’t immediately throw away but shouldn’t cost more than a couple of dollars per person (unless you have a huge budget, in which case, you are not me).

For our wedding favors, Ryan and I gave each guest a “lucky” penny and a scratch-off lottery ticket in an envelope that read “Lucky in Love” on the front. I might be biased, but I loved the idea then and still love it now: scratch-off lottery tickets are fun (especially if you win some money) and, besides the non-winning tickets, there was nothing guests would immediately pitch (unless people threw away the penny, but if they did, their loss!).

The responses from our wedding guests about the favors was great. So when I was brain-storming about favors for Lindsey’s shower, I thought doing something similar would be fun. Lottery tickets were fun for our wedding, but for the shower, I wanted to make “tickets’ that fit with the theme. Plus, since I had already made gift baskets for the prizes, I wanted the winner of the scratch-off ticket to win one of the baskets, not cash (though I’m not sure the guests would feel the same way…ha!).

I bought little white favor bags from Jo-Ann’s (these were actually wedding favor bags, but they were on clearance, so…I didn’t care) and filled them with Starburst candies. These were perfect, since the colors of the wrappers matched the color scheme of the shower.

 

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 Thanks to Pinterest, I found a DIY way to make scratch off lottery tickets on just about anything. So easy, and only requires four things (dish soap, metallic acrylic paint, a small paint brush and contact paper).

The instructions on the site show how to make a square scratch-off area, however, since I’m more of a circle gal, I used a scrapbooking punch to cut out circular pieces of the contact paper. Circles all cut, I stuck them onto the tickets I had printed at Kinkos. This cost a little extra, but the rich colors and sturdy card stock were much better than anything I could have done at home.

I mixed the dish soap and paint according to the instructions (1 part soap, 2 parts paint) and got to it:

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To make sure the design of the little umbrella didn’t show through, I did two coats of the mixture (making sure the first layer was completely dry before doing the second). Once the second coat was dry, I used some little sticky dot things (left over from our Easter egg coloring egg-stravaganza) to attach the tickets to the favor bags. I added some matching tissue paper, and voila:

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Since we were expecting 36 people (including Lindsey and me), I made 40 of them. Four extra is plenty, right?

I should have known better.

The next day, my husband called me while I was at work. Apparently, the dog and cats conspired together to a) knock some of the bags off of our dining room table, and then b) simultaneously eat the candy and shred the bags. I blame the cats for getting the bags off of the table, but the eating and shredding: all on Sarge. Ugh. Of course, he destroyed SIX of them. Not four. SIX.

The only thing that saved him was that he somehow managed to ruin only non-winners. I held my breath for what seemed like an hour as Ryan scratched off each ticket attached to a chewed up bag. All umbrellas, no “You win!”. You’re off the hook this time, Sarge. I think of the stomach ache that followed was punishment enough.

Alas, I was still down two bags. However, it wasn’t like I was actually going to take a prize if I won, so I didn’t need one. And when I told her what had happened, Lindsey was more than willing to pass on a favor as well. What a doll 🙂

In the end, everything turned out perfectly. The bags looked great on the tables, and from what I could tell, everyone had fun with the scratch-off tickets. Success!

July 2012 Birchbox

How awesome is this month’s Birchbox?! For July, Birchbox teamed up with Glamour magazine for the five senses of summer:

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(I love the theme this month, but I have to say one thing: I really hate the design of the box. I might be crazy, but doesn’t it look like 5 multi-colored tongues? Kind of grosses me out. Anyway, moving on…)

I was particularly interested in what “hear it” and “taste it” were, since I haven’t received anything that makes sound from Birchbox before and, well, I like food.

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Here is what came to my house this month:

* Harvey Prince’s “Hello” perfume – yum! Love this scent
* stila lip glaze – this gloss in “It’s Go Time” promises “shimmery color with mega-watt shine”. Meg-watt shine indeed! Not for the office, but would be perfect for a night out.
* Gloss Moderne high-gloss hair masque – very excited about trying this.
* Ada Comesmetics bronzer – I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: yay, bronzer!

The “lifestyle extras” were the part I was waiting for: hear it and taste it.

* Earbuds designed by Birchbox – Ok, lime green and hot pink earbuds? You better believe I put those suckers on right away and took them for a test-jog. I’m convinced they made me runner faster (or at least look cooler).
* Larabar uber bar – bananas foster flavor…I can’t bring myself to eat it because then it will be gone! I’ve heard these are amazing.

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If you haven’t tried Birchbox yet, I would highly recommend it. The excitement and anticipation of getting that little box and seeing what’s in it is so worth the $10. And I’ve found that the products inside would cost far more than $10 if purchased. It’s on a month-by-month basis, so you can cancel anytime. Something else to consider – you can give the gift of Birchbox! A friend of mine’s birthday is today (Happy birthday, Katie!), and because I think her and Birchbox would make a perfect pair, I gifted her Birchbox for the next 3 months. Great idea for a girl (or guy! They have men’s boxes too) who has everything.

Skin Therapy – for FREE

Happy Thursday! We are back from vacation and back to reality.

We had a wonderful time and made a lot of memories with our friends Josh and Kim (who got engaged right before the trip, yay!). Even though I was very careful about applying sunscreen whenever we were going to be in the sun, I can feel the effects those rays had on my skin.

My face is begging for some TLC, so in the name of healthy, glowing skin, I decided to temporarily abandon my adverse thoughts on expensive skin care  and did a little Google research. My search brought me to the Mario Badescu website. Awesome stuff, Mario. Well done. But of course, these products are more expensive than drug store brands, so I ultimately decided it just wasn’t meant to be for me and Mario.

However, before I left the website, I noticed something in the bottom right corner of the home page: Receive a FREE personalized skin analysis. A skin analysis…sounds like fun. And for free? Now that’s more up my alley. After filling out  some personal information (name, email address, etc.) and answering a couple of questions about my skin (dry or oily? how often do I get pimples? etc.), I was given a skin “profile” and products that would help my skin look and feel its best. But alas – I passed on purchasing anything. Old (spending) habits die hard. I know my drug stores products aren’t the “best” but they work just fine for me.

So, keys in hand, I was getting ready to head to CVS when my iPhone buzzed with an email. It was from the Mario Badescu site: since they are CONFIDENT I will love the skin regimen they put together for me, they are going to send me samples of all the products. SCORE! I know the purpose of this is so I use the samples, fall in love with the products and convince myself I cannot live without them…

But Mario Badescu, your free samples are no match to my cheap-ness.

I hope…

Want to get some pricey skin care samples tailored to your needs? Check out the Mario Badescu site. Let me know what you think!